Risk and Drug-taking in Tourism: A Content Analysis of the Implementation of Drug Testing at New Zealand's Music Festivals for the Harm Minimisation of Young Festival Visitors
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As in several other countries, the emergence of dance-music culture and ‘raves’ in New Zealand during the 1980s stimulated the relationship between drugs and youth, generating dynamic situations in which the ingesting of so-called ‘party-drugs’ such as methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, LSD and other psychoactive substances has become common. For many young people, aged approximately 18–29 years old, travelling to a music festival is a rite of passage within a hedonistic or a self-indulgent daily life where identity and social capital are constructed, pleasure is ‘used up’, and alcohol and drugs are omnipresent. Nevertheless, youth party-drug consumption is usually perceived by politicians, experts and wider society as deviant and associated with risk-taking and indiscretion, as evidenced by an array of physical, psychological and social problems. There has been an active drug policy debate in New Zealand for several years involving the availability of drug testing services at music festivals. Drug checking is not a new approach and has been offered across Europe for a long time now. In New Zealand, Section 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 stops music festival organisers from permitting drug testing at their events for fear of prosecution. This research intended to examine the nature of this festival drug testing policy debate. Data were sourced from prevailing academic studies, public domain sites such as online newspaper articles, television and radio media. The narratives that supported drug testing emphasised the evidence arising from the existing knowledge of youth, the significance of informed decisions and offering information and education. The arguments opposing drug testing comprised the belief that there is no safe drug consumption, that festival drug testing would create a false sense of safety, and that the evidence obtained so far is misleading. Both the parties, those in favour and those against festival drug testing, shared a common goal: to keep people safe. Nevertheless, the beliefs and values underlying this objective are varied. The polarised drug policy debate continues to be fixated on matters of fact, instead of matters of concern that could result in beneficial outcomes. A more ‘civilised’ mode of communication that establishes knowledge, involves values, and is handled with humility may be more valuable in moving the debate forward.